Dawg Days: Sweet Water takes area crown
LINDEN – Sweet Water used a balanced offense and timely defense Monday to beat Sunshine 54-52 in the finals of the AHSAA Class 1A, Area 5 boys basketball tournament.
Both teams opened with a flurry, trading three-pointers throughout the game’s first period. By quarter’s end, Sunshine clung to a narrow 19-18 lead.
At the close of the second frame, Sweet Water worked the ball inside for what appeared to be an easy lay-in before Sunshine center Dayton Mickens rejected the shot to keep the Bulldogs up only 31-29 at the half.
At intermission, Mickens entered the locker room with nine points, second only to guard John May, who drained four treys over the game’s first two periods.
The Bulldogs stuck with a zone defense in the third quarter, giving way to another Tiger onslaught. Sunshine outscored Sweet Water 18-11 in the third period to take a 47-42 lead into the final quarter.
“We went man and tried to lock down on them defensively,” Sweet Water head coach Jonathan Farr said of the team’s defensive adjustment in the fourth quarter.
A sixth John May three-pointer stretched the Sunshine lead to eight points before the Bulldogs really went to work.
“We stayed together and kept our head in,” Sweet Water forward Devin Wolf said.
With 2:04 to go in the contest, Bulldog guard Antonio Landrum pulled up to the arc and drained a triple to tie the game at 52.
The squads proceeded to alternate possessions, each failing to change the scoreboard. With 29 seconds to go in the game, Farr called a timeout.
Coming out of the break, the Bulldogs worked the ball to senior point guard Damaraquis Williams.
“No. 4 has been starting on varsity since he was in seventh grade. He has seen a ton of basketball and he is an incredible leader,” Farr said. “We wanted the ball in his hands when it came down to the wire.”
While Williams nailed shot after shot throughout the tournament for the Bulldogs, it was Wolf who found himself with the ball and an opportunity to win the game.
“Coach had already told me if I get there go up strong, don’t go up weak with it,” Wolf said. “And I went up strong.”
Wolf banked the ball in from the left side with eight seconds left on the game clock to give the Bulldogs a 54-52 lead.
“I think he just started playing basketball in the 10th grade and he has gotten better and better,” Farr said of Wolf.
Immediately after Wolf’s basket, the Tigers quickly rushed the ball up the court and into the hands of Nathaniel Zinnerman.
The Tiger senior vaulted to the hoop for a potential game-tying layup before being fouled hard from behind. Zinnerman lay prone against the wall for several seconds before being helped to his feet and ultimately to the bench by Tiger teammates.
With Zinnerman out, Sunshine inserted a player from the bench to shoot the free throws that would have tied the game. Both chances missed, handing Sweet Water its first area basketball title and the right to host its sub-regional game Friday night.
“It feels great,” Williams said of the win. “We always talked about going to the playoffs in basketball and working hard to start a program at the school.”
Williams, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, led Sweet Water with 15 ponts. Wolf finished with 10 while Landrum and Ladarius Williams each added eight.
“I’ve got five guys that average over 10 points,” Farr said. “If our other guys will step up, it’s hard to take one or two guys out of the game.”
That ability to share the ball proved beneficial for Sweet Water Monday. ”It’s always practicing, working on teamwork and helping each other,” Williams said.
May finished with a game-high 23 points for Sunshine while Mickens ended the night with 17.
Sweet Water will host the loser of the game between Autaugaville and Holy Spirit while Sunshine will travel to the winner of that contest Friday. ”We are not satisfied,” Farr said of his team, which also beat A.L. Johnson and Linden in the tournament. “We are not through.”